(Almost) Finished Peplum Skirt!

After we last spoke, I decided to remove the pleats in the front of the peplum and re-drape it to fit my shape. This is where a dress form would really come in handy!
I chose to have the drape originate at the left hip and fall naturally. There was also that tassel bit I could have added to the side, but my fabric was too thick and it just didn’t look right. I ended up leaving it off.
Sorry for the odd coloring on these photos! My camera is on it’s last leg, and the colors of my outfit didn’t match 😛
When I re-draped the front of the peplum, the fabric didn’t quite line up correctly. I’m going to hand sew that bottom exposed part, and then possibly add a rosette.

This was my first time adding a waistband! A veteran seamstress will probably suggest that you try new things in their most simple form, but I’m not good at doing things the easy way. Plus, I’d already decided this skirt was a glorified wearable muslin rather than something I’d wear often, so I added some lovely braided piping!

Overall, I love the shape of this skirt! Most women think the peplum wouldn’t suit their shape, fearing that it would accentuate a larger lower half. But as a woman with large hips (well, my hips aren’t large my waist is just small!) I feel this look is extremely flattering, and very feminin.
I’ll be making more of these now that I am comfortable with the pattern assembly. I may experiment with the length of the skirt, the fullness of the A-line, and of course I’ll find fabric that doesn’t so closely resemble a set of hotel sheets.
Happy Sewing!
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Contrasting Polka Dot Hazel Dress

Wow, I can hardly believe its been two months since I began this dress project by creating a mood board! I purchased my fashion fabric as well as a boat load of muslin before departing for New York, but while there, I was only able to get as far as sewing my muslin. For another month and a half the cut and prepped pieces of my final dress sat buried at the bottom of a suitcase.
The day I returned home to Portland and was reunited with my beloved Brother (btw I think he needs a name!) I started sewing up my Hazel. Even though I had adjusted the pattern after creating my muslin, this dress somehow ended up fitting my younger sister rather than me. I was a bit sad to lose a summer dress, but stoked to see my creation fit her so well. Look how beautiful she is!
I almost forgot to mention that I drafted these straps myself! I forgot the pattern piece in Clare Bare’s studio the day I sewed my muslin. I think their placement in the back is just a bit off. I don’t know if that is due to my drafting or if it stems from the pattern itself. I know I’ve seen the same strap placement on other Hazels. Still, they turned out alright, especially with the addition of some pink braided trim I had in a scrap bag!
Colette Patterns never fails to deliver gorgeous dresses, and I can hardly wait for their fall line! Happy sewing 🙂
Read More Contrasting Polka Dot Hazel Dress

The Basics of Fit: Bras

I am passionate about well fit clothing. As a curvy lady, that means I must also be knowledgeable of the important role undergarments play in being well dressed. When I was growing up my Mother worked at in the lingerie section of NORDSTROM, fitting women for their perfect bra-mate.

Even with the unforgettable image of my 5 year old sister wearing my Mother’s work shirt that read, “9 out of 10 Women Wear the Wrong Size Bra” I still walked around in a hot pink Victoria’s Secret 34 C cup for two years. When it finally wore out I decided to return to the department store where my mother had worked and see if I needed a new size.

I was a 19 year old ex-ballet dancer, and my breasts had developed suddenly during my freshman year of college. I had known that my only bra was not an ideal fit, but I wasn’t prepared for what happened in that dressing room stall. The attendant rolled up her measuring tape and kindly informed me that I was a 30DDD. Since this is such a rare size, they only had one option for me to purchase at that time. It was an $80 Chantelle in light pink with monstrously huge cups and far-reaching underwires.

I was mortified. How could I have a mother who knew so much about these things and still be so ill-informed myself? I rode the bus home, totally broke from the purchase of a freakish and expensive bra, and cried.

Five years later I still have that first Chantelle bra. I actually grew to love it for its fit and versatility (though I still enjoy breaking free from its grip the moment I return home from work). I now have a decent collection of lovely bras, all of which make me feel special and comfortable in my shape.

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  • Green nylon Champion Sports Bra purchased at Target. Worn for light exercise or under baggy shirts during “that time of the month.” It really doesn’t fit me that well, but it was a bargain at $14!
  • White cotton no-name dance bra purchased at The Leotard. Worn for intensive exercise or dance. The cup is made up of two sections sewn with a vertical seam, and the gather in the middle creates a perfect fit. The criss-cross straps are pretty as well as functional, providing maximum support.
  • White lace Wacoal size 32D. This bra does not have underwire and so provides less lift, but the seaming and triple-clasp in back allow for a comfortable fit. Worn under T-Shirts and clothing will less structure.
  • Nude DKNY size 32DD. Racer-back style with front-clasp closure and underwire. Worn with racer-back tops.
  • Pink Chantelle size 30DDD. Underwire with double-clasp back closure. Worn with structured dresses for maximum “hourglass” shape.
  • Black lace Wacoal size 32DDD. Underwire with triple-back closure. Worn under form-fitting tops and dresses to show off my true-size with extra lift and support.
  • Black lace Felina size 32D. Underwire with double-back closure. Date-night bra!
I am being honest about my bra collection here, and I will admit that these bras are not my ideal fit. The 30DDD Chantelle was great when I was 19, but I recently lost some weight and it is now too big.

I was just resized as a 28DDD (F). Ack! And you thought your size was hard to accomodate? Girlfriend, if I can be at peace with my 28F self than you can be too 😉 My style options are practically zero, though I was lucky to find that Chantelle’s new C Chic bra runs small in the waistband and I can pull off a 30DD (E).

3 Important Bra Facts:

– A bra should always fit you on the largest closure. The reason there are 3 different sets of clasps is so you can gradually fit the bra tighter as the fabric stretches out over time. You never want to buy a bra that only fits on the smallest closure, as it will not fit you after a month of wash and wear.

– You should never wear the same bra two days in a row. You should have at least 3 bras that fit to keep a decent rotation, and five is ideal. This is because the elastic in the waistband needs a chance to shrink back down, or it will become very stretched out very quickly.

– When you go up in a band size, you need to go down in the cup size and vice versa. Example: If you’re fit as a 34DD but find a style of bra that runs tight in the waistband, try it on in a 32DDD (F).

Do not be discouraged if you can’t find anything you like at your lingerie shop! As I said, my a collection that took me five years to build and it is still for perfect. I only go to the lingerie section when I am prepared to hunt down at least ten options, to try them all on and consider the comfort aspect, to put a shirt on over top to analyze the cup shape, and to finally end up with maybe one that is worth buying.

Also, do not be afraid to ask for help! I like to get re-measured every so often just to ensure that I’m making the right purchases. If you’ve been buying the same size for over three years, chances are it’s no longer the best fit for you. It can be a hard truth to deal with, as it was for me at first. But when you end up with the best possible foundation you’ll inevitably feel better about your body and your clothes!

Read More The Basics of Fit: Bras

Sewing Lesson

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I was working on the muslin for my second Simplicity 3613 dress (see the original here) when my 5 year old nephew came over for a visit. He has always been a bit of a fashionista (ister?) but I was surprised at how curious he was to learn the sewing trade.

I taught him what a pattern is, how the thread is woven into the fabric by the needle to make two pieces of fabric stay together, and the difference between using a machine and hand sewing.

He picked out different stitches in my fancy Brother and pushed the pedal to stitch them. This little one may be destined to sew because he scolded me for not trimming all of my thread tails. Ha!

I also had him help me sew a button hole on the machine and then hand sew the button onto the muslin colar. He was excited to match the finished bodice up to his polo shirt and see that he had created the same kind of closure.

I’ve always loved sharing new information with my nephew and niece, but their capacity to learn still amazes me at times like this. I never would have guessed that after his third week in kindergarten he would already be old enough to understand how to sew. I hope to never underestimate him again!

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Vintage Pattern Addict

In my defense, it is extremely difficult working in a lingerie department and not purchasing every gorgeous thing I put on a hanger.
Falling in love with a garment from the pattern all the way through to the finished product allows you to really relish the experience, rather than just handing over cash and  carrying out a bag (or opening a box if you’ve got an online habit like I did.)
That being said, I must admit I’ve only made 3 out of the 8 vintage patterns I now own :/ Many of them are just not in my skill range yet and I’d hate to cut out such a delicate thing as a 1940’s suit pattern unless I know exactly what I am doing.
But… this 1950’s topper jacket looked pretty simple! And it’s finally starting to get chilly out here in Oregon.
And I really am a sucker for anything from the forties. These pajamas circa 1947 were my size and only cost $5! Obviously a justifiable purchase.
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It’s Official: I am a sewing geek. My Mother said so.

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(Please excuse the abismal quality of this snapshot, I’m currently operating with nothing but PhotoBooth)
I’ve been working on a new version of Simplicity 3613 using a fabric that not only has grey vertical stripes, but a herringbone texture as well. And this is my first time matching stripes. Nervous much? Why yes, I was! I decided to just take my time and be über meticulous about each step. And maybe even follow all of the pattern instructions for once?
Tonight I finished the entire bodice (including the hand sewn slip stitching of the bias tape) and my unusually well mapped out cutting job paid off: The horizontal stripes of the front colar intersect at a perfect 90 degree angle with every single vertical stripe on the bodice. What?! And obviously all the other lines match up at varying degrees with wich I am less familiar, but they look equally perfect.
I’m not even kidding, I almost cried.
After I joyously pointed this out to my Mother she laughingly responded, “Wow, you really are a geek!” I will take that as a compliment with just a hint of jealousy, since she had been shuffling through all of her handmade church clothes from the 80’s earlier this afternoon. You wish you had a salmon colored herringbone dress, Mom!
I look forward to forcing my friend to take many fabulous pictures of me in this dress once I get the skirt attached. No need for you to see me in just a bodice and blue bicycle shorts. Until then, happy sewing my fellow geeks!
Read More It’s Official: I am a sewing geek. My Mother said so.

In The Works: “Nerdy Girl Vintage” Clothing Line

Hello, wonderful friends!

I had the idea of starting a vintage inspired handmade clothing line over a year ago. There are many aspects of this venture that are tedious and daunting, so I have not made much progress. But I am happy to announce that my first pieces are now for sale in a local Portland shop!

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Head over to my Nerdy Girl Vintage blog to see the slim 60s style wool neckties I am working on.

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The brand is inspired by my Grandmom, Joyce. I was fortunate enough to inherit her petite hour glass figure, but I quickly learned how difficult it is to properly dress. I taught myself how to sew because I couldn’t find proper fit in modern RTW fashion. I enjoyed vintage clothing because it suited my body, but I felt like I was wearing a costume and rarely wore the vintage pieces I purchased in my day to day life.

So, I chose to sew from vintage patterns and alter them to suit a more modern aesthetic. And Nerdy Girl Vintage was born!

Once I sell some of these neckties around town I will have money to play with branding an packaging. Then I can offer them to you all on Etsy! In the mean time, I would like your input on something:

Would you ladies out there enjoy it if I offered hair bows that matched the neckties, so you can match your SO? I am super cheesy and always like that kind of stuff but I know it isn’t everyone’s cup of tea.

Read More In The Works: “Nerdy Girl Vintage” Clothing Line

2 Year Sewing Anniversary: I Think Knits Time!

It has been 2 years since I started sewing and I realized the other day that I have yet make any knit garments for myself.

About a year ago I was introduced to knits when doing production sewing for a local boutique. Working at Mag-Big acquainted me to the grainline of knits, sewing with serger and coverstitch machines, and cutting fabric with a rotary cutter rather than sheers.

But the fabric they use is mostly thick, vintage polyester. It doesn’t have a ton of stretch and it isn’t very slippery. I felt confident enough to start a Newcastle Cardigan for my manfriend for Christmas (though I have yet to buy a ballpoint needle to make the button holes). Menswear is boxy and has a pretty loose fit, so that project is has been straight forward. The sweatshirt wool I used was thick and very cooperative to serge together.

However, the kinds of jersey I am drawn to at the fabric store for myself are usually very fine weight and slippery soft.The garments I am interested in sewing are fitted skirts and dresses, which means I have to deal with ease and stretch. Also, there is knowing which seams need reinforcement and a whole different world of hem finishing.

In an effort to create more clothing that I will actually wear, I have decided to bite the bullet and start on some knit projects.

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This cream content unknown knit with gold hounds tooth print was in the “New From NYC” pile at Mill End and I couldn’t resist it. There is enough for a dress for both my little sister and myself. Woot, sister sets!

I found a simple black t-shirt jersey for the perfect spring/summer Coppelia wrap sweater. As an ex-ballet dancer I was thrilled to get this Papercut pattern for the holidays!

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And I know this is probably a stupid thing to do for my first knit venture, but I am going to use these bamboo fabrics for a Chole dress by Victory patterns, V.1. This dress pattern is designed for wovens, so I am going to have to size it down at least two sizes from the smallest size available (I am a 00 right now for some reason). And I think I am going to omit the zipper so it is a pull over. I hope that is ok???

I will definitely be digging up some scrap knit for a muslin. I am going to do a full run through of the dress to make sure I know how I am finishing the neckline and armholes. I have some twill tape for reinforcing the shoulder seams. Is there anything special I need to do for the princess seams?

Do you have any other words of advice on sewing with knits for the first time?

Read More 2 Year Sewing Anniversary: I Think Knits Time!

Review: Betty Page Clothing

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I recently heard tale of a boutique offering new production clothing in vintage sizes. It’s called Betty Page Clothing and they just opened a shop in downtown Portland.

My first reaction was fear: that sounds like Nerdy Girl Vintage! But then I realized that while the clothes are new production, the styles are still hard core vintage. Realizing they aren’t competition with my “modern inspired vintage” concept (and totally excited at the prospect of new garments fitting me) I decided to go check it out.

I walked into the shop and said plainly, “I pretty much only wear vintage because I’m already shaped like I’m wearing a gurtle. I don’t like looking like I’m wearing a costume.”

With that in mind the shop lady pulled a few things for me to try. She was totally friendly and helpful and we had fun selecting stuff. I admit to being skeptical that the XXS would fit both my bust and waist. But some things did! And I am now smitten with this fitted nautical dress:

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Derp! I’m a nerd 😉

Nothing wins me over faster than proper fit. Overall, the idea of this shop is exciting to me and I was pretty pleased. But then I looked at the fiber content and price tags and the two just don’t add up in my head.

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$56 for a 100% polyester sweater? I think not. Even though I’ve been itching for a wool sweater in just this shape (get it? Itching?). This polka dot pencil skirt was also an amazing off-the-rack fit, but the cotton was so light weight and flimsy that I’d never pay for it. I’d rather suffer through muslins and sew it at home in a fabric that will last me years.

What you’re paying for at Betty Page Clothing is the niche style and fit, not the quality. I’m less surprised to see they’re sold on ModCloth now that I have felt the fabrics in my hand. The quality is just not up to my fiber standards.

In the end, I would drop $150 on the nautical dress because I can’t resist off-the-rack fit. Some things I just don’t want to sew. And the stretch of the poly cotton blend is actually really comfortable. But I am hoping to find a way to make the sweaters myself.

Does anyone know if there is such a thing as vintage knit sewing patterns??

Note: After exploring their website a bit I discovered an outlet section. The prices here are much more reasonable!

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